George Louca

Sarah Fenwick

George Louca has been described as a boastful man who thumbed his nose at the authorities.

But in court in Cyprus yesterday the man wanted in SA to stand trial on four charges, including Lolly Jackson’s murder, sat quietly listening to the legal arguments.

Indeed, in the first days of the extradition process, he was defiant, often interrupting the court proceedings and earning a telling-off from the judge.

Now that the extradition hearing was almost at an end and a decision would be made by next week on whether he will be put on a plane back to Joburg, Louca has been a pale shadow of this arrogant figure.

He has been sitting quietly as his fate is discussed by the legal figures around him.

Louca mainly stared straight ahead, but at one stage he could only look at the floor, bowing his head. That point came when his lawyer, Sofronis Sofroniou, argued that the evidence against him was “ridiculous”. The SA authorities had sent a thick pile of extradition papers which included the evidence against Louca, and in those papers they allege Louca had called a police officer and confessed to Jackson’s murder.

“Where is the recording of this telephone call?” Sofroniou asked.

The lawyer was equally dismissive of other evidence, including a meeting Louca had with two police officers during which they noticed a red (blood) spatter on his jeans. Why didn’t the police arrest him then and test the substance, Sofroniou asked?

And as for the warehouse in which Louca allegedly stored stolen goods, why did police follow a procedure in which they approached the owner and asked him to let them enter the warehouse? This procedure would be thrown out of court in Cyprus, said Sofroniou.

The defence argued that it was mysterious that SA authorities had waited so long after Louca had left the country in 2008 to ask for an Interpol arrest warrant. And corruption charges against the suspect were unsubstantiated, said the lawyer. Louca bought some cars and gave one to the wife of a policeman, but who was to say that the woman was not just a friend of his, said the lawyer.

So far, neither of the lawyers had referred directly to evidence, concentrating instead on the extradition process itself and whether it had been properly carried out.

Sofroniou went on to say that a 1970s law ruling out the extradition of Cypriot citizens had not been repealed or amended, so it still stood and the judge was “blocked” from sending him back to SA.

He also repeated his argument that extradition papers from SA had been sent by an invalid route via the country’s embassy in Athens.

The papers were then sent by diplomatic courier to the Cyprus Embassy in Greece, which forwarded them to the Cyprus government.

Prosecutor Olga Sophocleous said Cyprus and SA were both signatories to a European treaty on extradition and that the 1970s law was no longer valid after a 2006 amendment to Cyprus’s constitution giving the state the power to extradite Cypriot citizens.

With Louca’s friends and family hanging onto every word the lawyers said, the courtroom was hushed after legal arguments ended.

Judge Elena Ephraim then said that she would hand down her decision in a week’s time and that Louca would stay in custody until then.

The procedure has taken two months so far and, if he loses his case, his defence lawyer said he would appeal to the Supreme Court. – EWN reporter

See also Page 11